As LNP | LancasterOnline reported Sunday, “the Lancaster County GOP saw hundreds of its registered voters leave the party in the first half of January. In the week of the Jan. 6 (U.S. Capitol) attack, 249 Lancaster County Republicans switched their registration to other parties. Of those, 146 became Democrats. These party switches continued into the following week: From Jan. 11 to Jan. 18, 87 Lancaster County Republicans switched their registration to other parties, with 76 becoming Democrats, according to Pennsylvania Department of State data. For all of 2020, 858 GOP voters in the county switched to other parties, meaning that in just the first two weeks of 2021 the party lost nearly 40% of the number of voters it lost to other parties in the entire preceding year.”
President George Washington thought political parties would ruin our republic.
In his 1796 farewell address to the nation, Washington wrote: "However (political parties) may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
The italics are ours. Washington perfectly describes the members of the modern Republican Party who sought to subvert the will of the American people by embracing the Big Lie about the November presidential election — that it was rigged against former President Donald Trump and unfairly conducted.
The truth, confirmed by the courts, numerous Republican election officials and Trump’s own election cybersecurity chief, is that the election was free, fair and legitimate — and the winner was Joe Biden.
Also true: The Jan. 6 violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was an attack on democracy, instigated by Trump and perpetrated in part by QAnon adherents and white supremacists who believe that they — and people who look like them — are the only ones entitled to that democracy. So invested are they in that twisted belief that they threatened to hang former Vice President Mike Pence and cause bodily harm to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers, whom they blamed for thwarting Trump’s efforts to hold onto the presidency.
We entertained the hope that after the horrors of Jan. 6 — which left some 140 police officers injured and one dead — that Republican Party officials learned their lesson. That they would put real distance between themselves and those who propagated dangerous and antidemocratic lies.
But then we read what Terry Christopher, the Lancaster Township area chairman of the Republican Committee of Lancaster County, posted on the committee’s Facebook page following the insurrection: “There are absolutely times when violence is appropriate, and it’s not a coincidence that it lines up with a corrupt government ignoring the masses who first called for peaceful solutions.”
Times when violence is “appropriate”? When did it become “appropriate” for domestic terrorists to attack police officers with flagpoles, fire extinguishers and metal pipes? To douse them with bear spray and, in least one case, to attempt to gouge out a police officer’s eye? To pepper-spray and scream racist slurs at Black police officers?
And solutions to what, exactly? A free and fair election?
Kirk Radanovic, chairman of the Republican Committee of Lancaster County, sent an email to committee members lambasting anyone who condoned or supported the violence at the Capitol, and asking anyone who did for their resignations. But he didn’t name Christopher.
It was, to put it mildly, a missed opportunity.
The reality is that Republicans have invited this kind of rhetoric by failing to tell the truth about the November election.
Persisting in that failure only makes things worse, as Radanovic should have realized when a Manheim Township committeeman said he’d resign because he believed Lancaster’s GOP state lawmakers had “literally stabbed” Trump “in the back” by not doing enough to reverse the election’s outcome.
That committeeman made it clear that there is no appeasing people who have been convinced by the Big Lie that the election was stolen from Trump.
This is affirmed by the Facebook post of one local Trump supporter, who noted that he changed his registration Jan. 9 from Republican to “MAGA Party.”
You cannot out-extreme extremists. This is why telling the truth — however painful — is always the best option.
Unfortunately, Radanovic has decided to go the other way.
In an email to LNP | LancasterOnline, Radanovic disputed the notion that there was any sort of mass exodus from the local GOP underway, and wrote: “Our committee members will continue to stand strong for our values and remain unified in the fight against socialism and the radical left who now control the agenda in Washington.”
As Ronald Reagan famously said to Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential debate, “There you go again.”
President Biden does not meet anyone’s definition of the “radical left.” And neither he, nor the top Democrats in Congress, are promoting socialism.
Even the notably not-socialist U.S. Chamber of Commerce has expressed support for the new administration’s COVID-19 recovery efforts.
“The U.S. Chamber applauds President Biden’s efforts to address the pandemic’s impact on public health,” Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer of the pro-business organization, said last week in a statement. “America must return to health before we can restore economic growth and get the 10 million Americans who lost their jobs in the last year back to work. We support the new administration’s focus on removing roadblocks to vaccinations and reopening schools, both of which are important steps to accelerating a broad-based economic recovery for all Americans.”
A devastating failure to tell the truth led to the Jan. 6 debacle at the U.S. Capitol. We hope for the sake of the GOP — and this country — that Republican Party officials heed something else that George Washington wrote, this in a 1794 letter: “Truth will ultimately prevail where pains (sic) is taken to bring it to light.”
Interestingly, as the website of the Mount Vernon library points out, Washington was criticizing groups that were misrepresenting facts and, as he put it, “spreading mischief far & wide either from real ignorance of the measures pursuing by the government, or from a wish to bring it, as much as they are able, into discredit.”
Washington believed truth was the remedy. We do, too.